When blackface is (a) fine

Using blackface is a sin, in a secular sense, but should it be a crime?

No blackface here (Photo: Stu Bykofsky)

City Councilwoman Cindy Bass thinks so, and has introduced a bill to make wearing blackface a crime, with a $75 fine. She thus reduces something really hateful to something like a parking ticket. 

This issue is related to Mayor Jim Kenney’s irrational warning to the Mummers to clean up their act or face serious consequences, including banishment and replacement with a city-sponsored, “inclusive” New Year’s parade.

So very many half-brained ideas, where to start? 

Let’s start with Bass. I could not find her bill online, and an email sent to her requesting a copy went unanswered, but this was Friday, which is known as Death Valley in certain parts of City Hall. 

I wanted to know how she would avoid First Amendment concerns. The last paragraph of the Inquirer’s story on the Mummers inbroglio says regulating blackface “is a legally thorny issue due to the First Amendment’s free-speech protections. Bass said she is working with the city’s Law Department to craft a measure that would pass legal muster.”

If I read this right, Bass introduced her bill before checking its constitutionality.

This seem bass-ackwards, pardon the pun. Wouldn’t a rational person check legality before submitting it? Maybe in the real world, but not in Philadelphia. 
(Update 1/27: Bass says she did consult with someone in law department.)

A call to the ACLU was not returned before deadline. It makes me wonder if I should increase — or decrease — my annual donation. 

I know on background that Americans can wear swastikas, they can burn crosses, they can wave Confederate flags, they can burn the U.S. Flag under the protection of free speech. We may not like it, but that is the burden of freedom. The Founders did not imagine safe spaces or trigger warnings.

So how can Bass imagine blackface would not be protected as free expression? I would have asked her that, had she answered my email.

Back to our two-faced mayor. For someone who was a Mummer for decades (Jokers Fancy Brigade) he is remarkably dim about what the parade is. What it is not is a celebration of national, ethnic and cultural diversity. It is not a United Nations agency. Its “modern” roots are in Britain and Sweden, so, yeah, that’s kind of white. And Odunde is black. (#OdundeSoBlack) So what?

Does our red-faced mayor roar about the St. Patrick’s Parade: Too many Irish! I can imagine him screaming. as Chinatown celebrates the lunar new year: Not enough Jews!

In his warning letter to the five Mummers Divisions, he called the Mummers Parade “one of our city’s most unique and recognizable traditions,” but moments later said bad behavior by “a few participants” has stained the parade.

The mayor demanded Mummers make “immediate changes to better control the parade and organize yourselves.”

In recent years, the guilt-laden Mummers have agreed to city-sponsored sensitivity training, and have submitted themes, music and costumes for city approval. 

The two mamaluks that wore blackface were banned from the Mummers. They managed to slip through Mummers scrutiny, and also city reps along the parade route.

Kenney said there is drunkeness in the parade, and there is, and cops  can act if they are told to, but the city’s general attitude is to ignore “small” crime. Kenney also said some Mummers harrassed city officials and cops. 

You mean city officials and cops are powerless? Maybe you have some organizing to do, Mayor Kenney. 

Basically you are punishing the many for the sins of the few. Tell me how that fits in with your ideas about social justice.

Your talk about banning the Mummers because of their lack of control over their members led me to satirize you and suggest Democrats be banned because so many elected Democrat officials have been sent to jail and they did far more damage to our city than a couple of fools in blackface, which does not happen every year, despite what a few hysterics on Twitter say. Although the incidents are few, they are loudly condemned by the Mummers. How many jailed elected Democrats have you condemned, Mr. Mayor?

Finally, lastly, we reach your threat to kick the Mummers off Broad Street (they will return to South Philly and own Two Street), and replace it with a diverse parade we can all be proud of.

Let me guess . . . Not the drag queens, because they will stick with the fun parade.

Your PC replacement parade will start with a unit of “returning citizens,” and I’d advise ladies hide their handbags under overcoats when these guys shuffle past.

Then we will have Native Americans from Delaware Valley tribes in Brooks Brothers suits to appropriate European culture as payback.

Following will be representatives of the three dozen gender identifications recognized by the city. Each will carry a poster showing its gender pronoun selection.

Really fun will be the 16 Little League teams who do not keep score, each player waving a plastic participation loving cup.

In a different uniform are Philadelphians in the famous school-to-prison pipeline. 

Satire will be provided by students from the University of the Arts, who will march in silence for fear of offending someone.

A group of mimes in whiteface will be applauded by the City Commission on Human Relations for reasons we all understand.

The largest group representIng our 25% poverty population will panhandle along the three-block parade route. 

Finally, a crowd favorite, a Septa bus painted like a clown car containing City Council and the mayor. 

People will come from all over the world to see this hot mess on a cold day.

31 thoughts on “When blackface is (a) fine”

  1. Wow! For a laid back kind of guy Stu you have covered it all. As the saying goes, “You let it all hang out.” Thank you. I see now why you left the Inquirer.

    We’ve been controlled too many years by a vociferous minority and what the great Thomas Sowell calls “The Anointed,” those who have deemed themselves knowledgeable of what is best for all. These people are consistently guilty of overkill. And selectively guilty of what or whom. They are guilty of brainwashing our youth, therefore, the future. Unfortunately, how do you stop or slow a runaway train that has taken us this far, to a place most don’t want to be? The ballot box? Schmallot box!
    I believe PC has become a modern day Fascism, a plague! I wish I knew the answer!

      1. Great article Stu, love it. A great PIX of the Uptown String Band. Thank You & God Bless you.

    1. Awsome piece
      I love that you are very knowledgeable,maybe you should run for mayor 😁 you have more going for you than Mayor flop flop .Once again great piece

  2. Typical Cindy Bass.

    Moving ahead, it appears that our Culture has created so many, “I am special” groups that there is no way that someone will not be “offended”.

    Since my memory of the Mummers Parade was on their way back down 2 Street, drunk and urinating on people’s residences, I never “got it”.(them).

    We have become so “sensitive” that one has to walk on eggshells.

    I refuse to do that.

    Good stuff Stu.
    How’s the eye?

  3. Yup – tell us how you really feel, Stu! lol I love sarcasm, especially when it’s directed to our 2-faced pols out there.

    1. Great Article Stu.. You ma friend hit the nail fight on the head.. With the downward spiral this city has gone thru this coward is sitting a desk trying to figure out how to keep the attention of him not living up to his civic duties as a mayor. Him n his crony DA Krasner are the 1s who are putting this once unified city into a racial and hatred spiral.. He has yet to hold a press conference on the Crimes.. Murders.. Robberies..and continued downward Spiral the City of Philadelphia has been going thru since he 1st took. office.. So lets go to something petty as blaming 1000s of Mummers for what was a mistake made by 2.. He should go back to chasing the hookers off of Broad Street.. Like he was known for years ago.. He is the 1st one to agree with council women and men on the negativity of the mummers but you never here them praise the mummers for all the good they have done for the citizens of Philadelphia in crisis.. When they are sick n dying and the clubs dedicate food ..beverages.. club houses for benefits to help support these families in need.. How they feed and clothe the homeless.. Or how they support our veterans who have fought and died for this country.. How they supported him and helped him get elected into office as far back as his city council days… God forbid should he recognize the mummers for the good they do.. And the people that come from all over the world to see this 120 year tradition.. Or the Revenue this event brings to our city..

  4. Its pretty obvious mayor Pinocchio is using this incident in an attempt to get rid of the parade cause his voter base made up of snowflakes, illegals and dead people and don’t get what the parade is all about and had nothing to do with creating the tradition.
    Idiot Helen Gym who was born in Seattle and has a lot to say about removing the Rizzo statue and wants a more diverse parade should he sit in the corner with a dunce hat and watch a documentary on the history of the city.
    There is a positive agenda with Kenney and city council to remove the parade even though the drunken baffoon was once a mummer.
    Kenney should have the same reaction about the murders in the city like he had about the 2 twatwaffles that wore blackface in the parade.
    But he got reelected so there must be some fools who just adore this alcoholic.
    Enjoy the next 4 years!

  5. Bravo!!!!
    You touched on something worth repeating, Cindy Bass going our 1st amendment rights, not an accident! They are trying to change things to fit their liberal view…

    Some may see black face as vulgar, me it is what it is. I’ve asked my 92 year old mother about this (black face) and her opinion was so what. We knew about back in my day and it didn’t hinder me.

    You see she had parents who grew up in the south who parents were either born in slavery or shortly afterwards. She learned how to deal with people and rise above it and so have I.

    I say this often at some time and point Vanilla will be bad – think about it.

  6. Best article I’ve read Ina long time. Wish there were many more Stu Bykofskys. Miss your columns.

    1. Great article Stu. So glad this was forwarded to me. Have always enjoyed your take on Philadelphia.

    Hope everyone is enjoying all of this liquid snow. Dollar wise, the city is saving a load of snow plowing money, but worry not, city council will fine a way to spend it on themselves.
    Pallie, it’s a pleasure reading your blog and just as much a pleasure to read the replys. When I was a city resident, most of the people that I knew, did not like your columns. They were city employees. You attacked everything that was wrong. Obviously, Philly gives you plenty to blog about. With the liberals crying “PC” at every turn, you are the voice in the wilderness.

  8. Stu, Cindy Bass also thinks Asian store owners protecting themselves with bulletproof glass should be illegal. Her true motives are obvious.
    As for Kenney, his feelings are hurt by the signs displayed by the comics since he’s been mayor, but since it’s satire, he couldn’t retaliate.
    Now he has racism, at least in his opinion. Now he can retaliate.

  9. I am a marching mummer in the last 25 parades.I am sick and tired of all the negativity by the city When I am on Broad Street and 2nd street I see smiling faces and I know I bring a little happiness to the crowd who in this city certainly need it.They talk about racism which is complete bull shit.I have shaken hands and taken photos with hundreds of people over the years of every color you can think of.One incident in particular comes to mind.We were around Walnut street and I saw a cute little girl in a wheel chair kind of sad looking,I went over to her and said Happy New Year with a large smile and gave her a set of beads.She immediately smiled and was very happy and excited.Her parents could not thank me enough and took a photo of the two of us which they said they will hang in her room.I also dance with the spectators regardless of who they are.We are all out there to have fun and forget our troubles for a little while.Your article was fantastic and right on.The spirit of the Philly I was born and raised in no longer exists.These snowflakes and carpetbaggers could care less about the city and its history and traditions, only their own radical liberal ideas.They think the world was created the day THEY were born.

  10. Wow, You hit the nail on the head! Thank you so much for your thoughts and comments about a topic that I have been agonizing over since our mayor and some of his hypocritical council members have started condemning all mummers.
    I assume that they feel mummers are easier to bash instead of doing something about our gun violence, filthy streets, illegal drugs, and crooked politicians.
    Once again, thanks for the great article.

  11. Stu,
    Thank you for this awesome column! Sometimes I feel like I’m alone thinking the things you wrote about. So glad to see the replies, I see I’m in good company.
    I miss your columns in the Inquirer!

  12. Stu,
    This article is ‘awesome’! Thanks for putting into words what so many of us feel. I recently moved back to the city and am so disappointed in the voter turnout. We had a chance to get this hypocrite out of office but we didn’t follow through. We are now stuck with him for another 4 years. Not to mention our disgraceful DA.

    Miss your columns.

  13. I was born and raised in Philly and as an 18 year old I used to work in the Food Fair building and every day at lunch I would get the daily news and go right to your column. At a young age I learned a lot about the inner workings of our city, good and bad, through your column. You had a comic flair and I enjoyed it immensely! I’m so happy to see you are still writing and putting some of these losers on blast! Keep up the good work!

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